Albany (New York, US), Dec.16 (ANI): Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of former US President John F. Kennedy, has said that she is interested in bidding for the soon-to-be vacated Senate seat of incoming US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Ending weeks of silence and speculation, Kennedy made a series of rapid-fire phone calls to the state's leading political figures on Monday, including New York Governor David A. Paterson, in which she emphatically and enthusiastically declared herself interested in the seat.
"She told me she was interested in the position. She'd like at some point to sit down and tell me what she thinks her qualifications are," the New York Times quoted Paterson, as saying.
The governor, who has sole authority to fill the Senate vacancy, insisted that he had not yet chosen a successor to Clinton and, said that Monday's conversation with Kennedy was the first he had had with her since an initial discussion almost two weeks ago.
But several people who have counseled the governor on the impending vacancy said that Kennedy has emerged as a clear frontrunner, if she proves able to withstand the intense scrutiny and criticism that her decision to seek the seat is likely to provoke.
According to the paper, Kennedy is now launching a public effort to demonstrate that she has both the ability and the stomach to perform the job, with plans to visit parts of the upstate region.
The governor, who has expressed frustration with other elected officials for campaigning too openly, has done nothing to discourage her, said a person who has spoken with Kennedy.
Kennedy and Paterson had spoken several times in recent days and that the governor had grown increasingly fond of her.
The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid antagonizing the governor, said that Paterson also has come to see Kennedy as a strong potential candidate whose appointment would keep a woman in the seat and whose personal connections would allow her to raise the roughly 70 million dollars required to hold the seat in the coming years.
Still, some have questioned whether Kennedy is qualified for the job.
Under state law, Kennedy would have to run and win in 2010, to finish out the last two years of Clinton's term, and again in 2012, to win a term of her own.
Another person who had advised Paterson said that Kennedy could offer political advantages to the governor, who was elevated to his position after Eliot Spitzer resigned in March and must face the voters for the first time as governor in two years.
"The upside of her candidacy is that the 2010 ballot will read Kennedy Paterson," said one of those advisers.
"David craves national attention and money. If you connect the dots, it leads to her," he added.
For Kennedy, an appointment to the Senate would open a historic and exceedingly high profile chapter to a life largely shielded from public view, and comes at a poignant time for her personally.
Her uncle, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, is struggling with terminal brain cancer, and his illness has forced members of his extended family to contemplate the possibility that the Senate could be left without a Kennedy for the first time in a half century.
Kennedy has urged his niece, to whom he talks nearly every day, to pursue Clinton's seat, though associates of the senator say he has made it clear he would not pressure her to do so.
Still, the associates said nothing would make Kennedy happier or prouder than having his niece in the Senate, which - far more than the White House - has been the center of gravity for the family's long record of public service.
Other members of the family, especially her cousin, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., have also strongly encouraged Caroline Kennedy, who, if she were appointed, would become the first woman to lead the Kennedy dynasty, whose most successful and visible members have been men.
Her brother, John F. Kennedy Jr., who died in a plane crash in 1999, had once been urged to run for the seat, which was held by their uncle, the late Robert F. Kennedy.
Kennedy, who initially seemed taken aback at the idea of bidding for the Senate seat, has now moved aggressively into campaign mode, albeit with careful attention to political protocol.
According to her friends, Kennedy, who was herself shielded from scrutiny when she was young, has become less worried about subjecting her three children to the spotlight now that they have grown older.
Kennedy's two daughters - Rose, 20, and Tatiana, 18 - are in college. Her son, John, turns 16 next month.
Some friends said that they saw Kennedy's interest in the seat as part of an evolution in recent years, one that has seen her grow more comfortable with the spotlight. (ANI)